We’re in our third week of my new Wanderlust Cooking series! This time, we went to Italy. Exactly a year ago, I was spending a month there, and I miss Italy so much!
I’ve always loved Italian food, but after our trip I realized there’s way more to Italian cuisine than I had ever known about. We had pastas I’d never even heard of before, as well as traditional Italian dishes I’d just never seen at home.
We researched a bunch of authentic Italian recipes to make at home and came up with a menu that turned out pretty awesome, and the dishes aren’t too difficult to make either (definitely not as hard as the French menu we made last week!). Some of them require resting or chilling overnight, and the eggplant parm was definitely time-consuming. But time is something we have a lot of these days so we were game.
When I think of what to wear in Italy, I think of linen dresses, hair scarves (I kept buying more and more hair scarves in Italy and have a huge collection now), chic oversized sunnies, and a cute bag and sandals. Here’s Italy vacation outfit inspo:
Movie recs that are set in Italy:
Eat Pray Love
Under the Tuscan Sun
The Italian Job
The Bourne Supremacy
Angels and Demons
The Lizzie McGuire Movie (lmfao, had to)
And here’s what we cooked up for our Italian night!
Limoncello Champagne Cocktails
Wanderlust Cooking: Authentic Italian Recipes
- 2 ½ cups lukewarm water
- ½ teaspoon active dry yeast
- 2 ½ teaspoons honey
- 5 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons Kosher salt or 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan and finishing
- Flaky salt for finishing
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ⅓ cup lukewarm water
1. In a medium bowl, stir together water, yeast, and honey to dissolve. In a very large bowl, whisk flour and salt together to combine and then add yeast mixture and olive oil. Stir with a rubber spatula until just incorporated, then scrape the sides of the bowl clean and cover with plastic wrap. Leave out at room temperature to ferment for 12 to 14 hours until at least doubled in volume.
2. Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil evenly onto an 18 by 13 inch rimmed baking sheet (we used a pan since we didn't have a rimmed baking sheet). When the dough is ready, use a spatula or your hand to release it from the sides of the bowl and fold it onto itself gently, then pour out onto the pan. Pour an additional 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the dough and gently spread across. Gently stretch the dough to the edge of the sheet by placing your hands underneath and pulling outward. The dough will shrink a bit, so repeat stretching once or twice over the course of 30 minutes to ensure dough remains stretched.
3. Dimple the dough by pressing the pads of your first three fingers in at an angle. Make the brine by stirring together salt and water until salt is dissolved. Pour the brine over the dough to fill dimples. Proof focaccia for 45 minutes until the dough is light and bubbly.
4. Thirty minutes into this final proof, adjust rack to center position and preheat oven to 450°F. If you have a baking stone, place it on the rack. Otherwise, invert another sturdy baking sheet and place on the rack, so that your baking pan is not directly on the rack. Allow to preheat with the oven until very hot, before proceeding with baking.
5. Sprinkle focaccia with flaky salt. (Remember that you've also had your focaccia in a salt brine, so don't over-salt!). Bake for 25 to 30 minutes directly on top of stone or inverted pan until bottom crust is crisp and golden brown when checked with a metal spatula. To finish browning top crust, place focaccia on upper rack and bake for 5 to 7 minutes more.
6. Remove from oven and brush or douse with 2 to 3 tablespoons oil over the whole surface (don’t worry if the olive pools in pockets, it will absorb as it sits). Let cool for 5 minutes, then release focaccia from pan with metal spatula and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
7. Serve warm or at room temperature.
To store, wrap in parchment paper and then keep in an airtight bag or container to preserve texture. Gently toast or reheat any leftover focaccia before serving. Alternatively, wrap tightly to freeze, then defrost and reheat before serving.
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 head of garlic, cloves crushed
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 3 oil-packed anchovy fillets (optional)
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
- ¼ cup torn basil leaves
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- Kosher salt
Eggplant and Assembly
- 4 pounds Italian eggplants (about 4 medium), peeled, sliced lengthwise ½–¾ inch thick
- Kosher salt
- 3 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 1½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ cups finely grated Parmesan, divided
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 5 large eggs, beaten to blend
- 1⅓ cups olive oil
- ½ cup finely chopped basil and parsley, plus basil leaves for serving
- 6 ounces low-moisture mozzarella, grated (about 1⅓ cups)
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
2. Add onion, anchovies (if using), and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until slightly darkened, about 2 minutes. Add wine, bring to a boil, and cook until almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute.
3. Add tomatoes, breaking up with your hands, and their juices; add basil and oregano and stir to combine. Swirl 1½ cups water into one tomato can, then the other, to rinse, and add to pot; season with salt.
4. Transfer pot to oven; roast sauce, stirring halfway through, until thick and tomatoes are browned on top and around edges of pot, 2–2½ hours.
Do Ahead: Sauce can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.
Eggplant and Assembly
3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place flour in another shallow bowl and eggs in a third shallow bowl. Working one at a time, dredge eggplant slices in flour, then dip in egg, allowing excess to drip off. Coat in breadcrumbs, packing all around, then shaking off excess. Place on wire racks.
4. Heat ⅔ cup oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high. Cook as many eggplant slices as will comfortably fit in pan, turning once, until deep golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels and immediately press with more paper towel to absorb oil. Working in batches, repeat with remaining slices, adding remaining ⅔ cup oil and wiping out skillet as needed. Let cool. Taste and season with more salt if needed.
6. Remove from oven and arrange fresh mozzarella over eggplant. Increase oven temperature to 425°F and bake, uncovered, until cheese is bubbling and browned in spots, 15–20 minutes longer. Let rest 30 minutes. Top with basil leaves just before slicing.
Since this is a pretty time-consuming recipe, you could cheat a little and save time by using your favorite jar marinara.
- 2 large eggs and 2 large yolks, room temperature
- 1 ounce (about 1/3 packed cup) grated pecorino Romano, plus additional for serving
- 1 ounce (about 1/3 packed cup) grated Parmesan
- Coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 ½ ounces of slab pancetta or bacon, sliced into pieces about 1/4 inch thick by 1/3 inch square
- 12 ounces spaghetti (about 3/4 box)
Place a large pot of lightly salted water (no more than 1 tablespoon salt) over high heat, and bring to a boil. Fill a large bowl with hot water for serving, and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks and pecorino and Parmesan. Season with a pinch of salt and generous black pepper.
Set the water to boil. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add the pork and sauté until the fat just renders, on the edge of crispness but not hard. Remove from heat and set aside.
Add pasta to the water and boil until a bit firmer than al dente. Just before pasta is ready, reheat pancetta in skillet, if needed. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain pasta and add to the skillet over low heat. Stir for a minute or so.
Empty serving bowl of hot water. Dry it and add hot pasta mixture. Stir in cheese mixture, adding some reserved pasta water if needed for creaminess. Serve immediately, dressing it with a bit of additional grated pecorino and pepper.
FOR THE CREAM
- 4 large egg yolks
- ½ cup granulated sugar, divided
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 1 cup/8 ounces mascarpone
FOR THE ASSEMBLY
- 1 ¾ cups good espresso or very strong coffee
- 2 tablespoons rum or cognac
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- About 24 ladyfingers (from one 7-ounce package)
- 1 to 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, for shaving (optional)
1. Using an electric mixer in a medium bowl, whip together egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar until very pale yellow and about tripled in volume. A slight ribbon should fall from the beaters (or whisk attachment) when lifted from the bowl. Transfer mixture to a large bowl, wiping out the medium bowl used to whip the yolks and set aside.
2. In the medium bowl, whip cream and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until it creates soft-medium peaks. Add mascarpone and continue to whip until it creates a soft, spreadable mixture with medium peaks. Gently fold the mascarpone mixture into the sweetened egg yolks until combined.
3. Combine espresso and rum in a shallow bowl and set aside.
4. Using a sifter, dust the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish (an 8x8-inch dish, or a 9-inch round cake pan would also work here) with 1 tablespoon cocoa powder.
5. Working one at a time, quickly dip each ladyfinger into the espresso mixture—they are quite porous and will fall apart if left in the liquid too long—and place them rounded side up at the bottom of the baking dish. Repeat, using half the ladyfingers, until you’ve got an even layer, breaking the ladyfingers in half as needed to fill in any obvious gaps (a little space in between is ok). Spread half the mascarpone mixture onto the ladyfingers in one even layer. Repeat with remaining espresso-dipped ladyfingers and mascarpone mixture.
6. Dust top layer with remaining tablespoon of cocoa powder. Top with shaved or finely grated chocolate, if desired.
7. Cover with plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours (if you can wait 24 hours, all the better) before slicing or scooping to serve.
- 4 (3 x 1/2-inch) lemon rind strips
- 4 tablespoons Limoncello
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 bottle brut Champagne, chilled
1. Rim glasses with sugar. Omied's trick for this is to pour sugar onto a paper towel and make a thick, ring-shapred mound in the size of the glass rim. Wet the glass, and then dip into the sugar.
2. Roll up each strip of lemon rind; place 1 into each of 8 Champagne flutes or coupe glasses.
3. Add 1 tablespoon liqueur and 1/2 teaspoon juice to each glass.
4. Divide Champagne evenly among glasses.
5. Serve immediately.